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Hillbilly Carnival to play V Club with Big Rock and the Candy Mountain Boys

Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:47 AM

This coming Friday evening, Jan. 4, the V Club will be filled with fun, twisted and open-minded roots music when Big Rock and the Candy Mountain Boys and Hillbilly Carnival — featuring Hurricane’s own Scott and Nellie Coffman — take the stage along with David Frazier’s new horn-fueled folk band, Tribe of the Elk.

The Big Rock boys are local favorites who have been around the Tri-State for a while. The Coffmans’ Hillbilly Carnival, on the other hand, is a newer band that is looking to start some traditions of their own.

Cover is $5. BRATCAMB kicks off the night followed by the two new string bands at the V Club, 741 6th Ave., Huntington.

Hillbilly Carnival is made up of banjo player Scott Coffman, Mark Smith on guitar, Nellie Coffman on bass, Matt Spade on guitar and vocals, Josh Cannon on electric mandolin and Stan Bumgardner on fiddle.

“We first got together when playing on the porch at a friend’s Easter party,” Smith said. “It was a nice organic groove. The friendship was there first and it turned into something better. Then I played the Bluegrass On The Rocks festival in Chloe, W.Va., as a solo gig in 2010 and I asked Scott and Nellie to join me. We have a fairly diplomatic approach to the band and we like to introduce new tunes like a picking circle. Each time we get together for practice, each of us tries to bring about two new tunes to the table. I came into it more from an acoustic folk angle and Scott was coming at it more from the old-time music side and we’d teach each other stuff.”

“We’re playing Freak Folk,” adds Scott Coffman, when asked to describe the sound of Hillbilly Carnival. “We’re doing some Holy Modal Rounders stuff, a good handful of fiddle tunes and a couple of jug band things. It’s a real big mix of string band, jug band and old timey music.”

Scott Coffman began playing the Earl Scruggs three-finger style of banjo picking in the late 1990s. But, somewhere around 2009, he fell in love with the much older clawhammer style of playing the instrument.  

“In January of ‘09 I moved to the good side of The Force,” Scott Coffman said about his switch in banjo styles. “I still love bluegrass, I just don’t pick it. I have yet to go back. I still have my bluegrass banjo and my finger picks and I’m keeping it and one day I will go back to it. But I have been so enthralled with learning new fiddle tunes. I learned from a guy named Jim Mullins in St. Albans. He’s an older guy who plays banjo and fiddle and he teaches (at the Fret and Fiddle music store). Jim played a lot with Dave Bing when they all went to school in Morgantown back in the 1970s. I started to learn the difference between bluegrass and old timey music, and I started to be able to hear the difference, and I was drawn to it like a bee to honey.”

Nellie Coffman is newer to the music scene. After being surrounded by other musicians for years, she finally decided to learn how to play an instrument. So, she took up the one musical apparatus that no one around her was playing — the bass. Eventually, her bass would become the last piece to the puzzle.

“I never thought I’d be playing in a band,” Nellie Coffman said. “After hanging out with Scott for 14 years and having a houseful of musicians, as the old saying goes, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ I picked up the bass, wanting something to do, and lo and behold, it surprisingly came to me really natural. The next thing I know I’m in a band, and the next thing I know I’m onstage, and the next thing I know I’m having a blast. I got the bug, for sure. I love making people dance. I love getting into the zone with the other band members. That’s really a cool thing about music because there is kind of a telepathic connection that you have when you’re playing and it is all spoken through music. I like the magic part of it. I like the chills you get when everybody is playing together and everyone is right on point, and that is when the hairs on my arm stand up.”

She also started a Facebook page that has become a meeting place for West Virginia musicians and music fans alike. Called “West Virginia’s Funkadelic Festivarians,” the page has more than 1,000 followers now and has become a go-to place for spreading the word on Tri-state concerts, jams, festivals, new albums and get-togethers. This past summer, the couple hosted their first-ever music and camping festival in the New River Gorge, an event that is sure to grow every year.

As for the concert at the V Club this Friday night, Scott Coffman is not only excited to be opening for a band he loves in Big Rock and the Candy Mountain Boys, but he is also looking forward to stirring up some fun with Hillbilly Carnival.

“We definitely try to get the crowd going and try to get everybody on the train and dancing and hooting and hollering,” Scott Coffman said. “We like to pick and grin, and we want everybody to be grinning and twirling. Our specialty is songs about trains and chickens. We all share the front man status. Everybody in the band sings tunes. That’s why I think we are a carnival as our roster is always evolving as is everyone’s role in the band. One minute, I might and go and dance on my head while picking the banjo and the next minute I am back there, backing up somebody else who is singing.”